1000heads: SXSW – What did we learn?

Austin -> Washington

Last weekend 1000heads despatched a number of its team out to a certain convention in the good ol’ US of A.

Admittedly, while we were there supporting a particular client, I also made sure we had time to get into the Austin Convention Center itself and take in some of the more interesting panels and talks that SXSW has to offer.

Yes, but what did you learn?

First and foremost, while a fair chunk of the predicted chatter was indeed about location-based services such as Gowalla and Foursquare, what we found was a very low rumbling about 2010 being the year when companies and brands alike truly harness the power of crowd-sourcing. This piece from Fjord about the iPad cements some of the feelings I already have about it, but also talks about content curation and the knowledge of where as opposed to what.

Hat tip to the guys over at Genius Rocket by the way, good to hear some sense throughout all the noise…

We also learned that SXSW really isn’t as bad as some people say it is. Similarly to other conferences we’ve been to before, the real value lies within the many different opportunities to connect, learn and share… and, with a smattering of smarts, maybe do a small amount of business along the way. Those things themselves are worth the air fare alone.

Real life connections people- it’s the future

One session I personally really wanted to see was Battery Life, the Final (Mobile) Frontier, the description alone sold it to me:

Africa is a much misunderstood market, but potentially as large as China or India. Computer and internet penetration is extremely low, but cellphones are everywhere. How to tackle communication and social services on a continent where electricity – including charging cellphones in rural areas – is the greatest challenge.

Sadly, the panel was cancelled at the last minute as the key contributor was called away to a personal emergency however, I did get the opportunity to meet the lovely Gaby Rosario who gave me the rundown about how while there are only 65k iPhones in South Africa, there are in fact nearly 45million mobile subscribers. Unsurprisingly, in South Africa at least, the iPhone is not the be all and end all.

But we knew this already, right?

It’s funny, even though the US-based event had such an international turnout, a lot of the content had a very US-centric point of view. The point about the iPhone for example, articulated so well by Gaby just hours before I first started writing this down, was a breath of fresh air against the constant stale wind of how mobile iPhone applications are going to change the world.

This is not to say it was a wasted journey, not by any stretch. Seeing people I haven’t seen since September ’08 – made it even more worthwhile. Being introduced to new faces through old friends and connections – given that 1000heads now has French, Canadian and US offices – again, also made it extremely beneficial.

Of course, working out there, meeting clients and competition winners… the list of how awesome it was just goes on.

Would I go back? Yes. Every day I was up at the crack of dawn to catch an early morning panel, be it on community building, crowd-sourcing, social media, blogging, mobile, neuro-science marketing… (no, really).

If the SXSW selection panel had picked someone to speak, it was (mostly) worth a visit.


Well, I’d still want to see a more clearer grading system for each session (like Vero mentioned the year before), and I think I could/should definitely speak about something at the next one.

Maybe my lucozade travels; staying mobile and connected ’round the world. Tips and tricks for the global traveller…

Or maybe even… …plain ol’ Word of Mouth? 😉

What d’ya think?

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Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

3 thoughts on “1000heads: SXSW – What did we learn?”

  1. I did not go to SXSW this year, but am planning to next year. Thus, I hope to see you James on several panels, not to mention ad-hoc ones you host in the halls!

    Maybe you can host one called “what is a unlocked phone and why don't you Americans know what one is”? 🙂

    In all seriousness, your perspective would be greatly appreciated at a conference where people go to gain perspective.


  2. I was crushed that I couldn't make it, but I'm glad you took the time to do a write-up, specifically from a company point of view. There are innumerable 'SXSW Recaps' out there, but very few look to assess the real experience – the majority simply 'grade' the event.

    I would also like to see you on a panel next year, Mr. Whatley.

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